Northern California • Basin & Range Birding Trail 15 Northeastern location
Just past a hundred miles of farmfield coming from the North we enter the Modoc National Forest, and turn left against our GPS’ wishes into Howard’s Gulch Campground (Forest Service). Pay attention to the signs. It's analog but it's right. It’s a small, primitive camp in Northern California with 12 sites. Two which are walk in only and none which are for large RV’s. The fee is $12 which is significantly more than the next campground down the road which is free, but the consistency of the Forest Service sites makes it worth it.
The trees are tall and red, and according to a conveniently placed sign, coniferous. There are also signs indicating common birds of the area and their habitats, along with a 1.5 mile trail built by the U.S. Forest Service, California Department of Forestry and the California Department of Corrections. The trail has been dedicated “for your hiking pleasure…” This campground is also part of the Basin & Range Birding Trail system of Northern California and Southern Oregon.
Like all forest service campgrounds there is a fire pit and a picnic table in each site. Most of the sites are spaced relatively privately, but since you’re in the middle of nowhere you’ll probably be sharing the camp with one, maybe two other campers. In addition, some sites have a stand alone charcoal grilling set-ups.
There are plenty of water taps. At least five, but since it isn’t potable there isn’t really much benefit. Since the water is being “treated with chemicals” I wouldn’t even recommend boiling it for use leaving it for the dousing of fires, but the camp is under no-burn restrictions. Rightfully so, considering the summer California has had so far.
Toilets are standard vaults, but there are three of them for 12 sites. Two of which are recent new builds. Being low in the gulch you’re surrounded by walls on three sides to the outer side of the camp loop. The inner loop still backs up to a cliff wall for an unusually located tall mound...and OHMYGOD MY WIFE JUST CHOPPED HER THUMB! SHIT! SHIT!SHIT!SHIT!SHIT!SHIT!SHIT!
The reason to camp here is…you’re on your way somewhere else most likely. Coming from Oregon to Yosemite or Tahoe or vice versa. But if you do you won’t be disappointed and if you like birds you’ll be pleasantly surprised. The nearest town is at least 20+ miles if you need anything so come prepared. My Wife's thumb is fine by the way. Despite a serious scare at the time. She field dressed it like a boss using our first aid kit (which we've since upgraded). She'll have a reminder scar, but her badass level went up like a million points. I give Howard’s Gulch 3 Tent Stakes of Awesomeness for being a solid campground with nice sites and trails leaving right from camp but not much else going on.
Pro-Tip #1: Prepare for summer heat. You aren’t at elevation here.
Pro-Tip #2: Bring binoculars.
Pro-Tip #3: Bring water and anything else you might need. No place near by to get it!